That’s Really Scary

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Things just come together sometimes, you know? You’re talking about something, or wondering about it, on Monday and the answer falls out of the sky to you on Tuesday. Or the more you think about something, the more you start to see it in the world.

It happened to me in the last week or so in regards the nature of time. I was talking to my friend Mike a week ago or so about whether time was necessarily a linear construct – he felt it didn’t need to be, I argued that time makes little sense without sequence.

We left it at that mostly, but then here comes Picnic at Hanging Rock last night and the issue comes up again. Not in the movie, necessarily, but certainly in the commentary on it that’s kicking around the ‘Net and in what’s supposed to be the “lost” final chapter of the novel the movie’s based on.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is a strange, beautiful movie (things I’m coming to be convinced more horror movies should be) about the disappearance of three schoolgirls and one of their teachers in Australia at the turn of the century (not a true story, BTW). The movie provides no explanation for the disappearances, but instead examines the fallout of the vanishings on those left behind.

The interesting – and relevant – thing here is that the commentary about the film, and apparently the original novel, suggest that Hanging Rock, the geological formation where the girls vanish, is a site scared to Aborigines. This is important because Aborigines, so the analysis goes (and I’m not clear if this is true or not) don’t believe in linear time.

See what I mean?

The analysis of the movie/novel seems to involve the girls getting caught up in some sort of nexus of non-linear time and being swept away out of the Western conception of time, and thus away from their friends’ and guardians’ ability to interact with them.

Think about that for a second. That is scary.

So scary, in fact, that when I got up from my seat to go to the bathroom I felt something I haven’t felt in years after watching a movie – real fear in my own home, a sense that not everything in the world is as stable as it seems. That’s pretty cool.

All thanks to non-linear time. See how things come together?


For another, somewhat related take on the same topic, it’s worth checking out McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories (despite it not being as good as its predecssor, the Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, which features a short piece, 7c by Jason Roberts, which addresses some potentially upsetting issues about the nature of time.


  • Novice says:

    “when I got up from my seat to go to the bathroom I felt something I haven’t felt in years”

    OR it could be a Urinary Tract Infection. FUN!

  • Brian says:

    Have you read Straub’s “Ghost Story”? That book did it to me. And I was on the bathroom at the particular moment when it happened! Sync!

  • Sam Costello says:

    Brian – Nope, never read Ghost Story. But I keep hearing good things about Straub, so maybe I’ll give it a shot.